Today is the 7th day of Operation Pillar of Cloud (or Pillar of Defense) but instead of resting, the Hamas terrorists in Gaza are pounding southern Israel with a huge and constant barrage of missiles.
From the Muqata’s live-blog (as of 11 a.m.)
10:41 AM IDF firing at terror cells in Nusayrat, Eastern Gaza strip.
10:32 AM Ashkelon and Ashdod – Air Raid Sirens…
10:28 AM Reports that 2 rockets landed in Beer Sheva in the previous attack. MDA forces responding. No known injuries as of this time.
10:22 AM Reports of a rocket landing in Beer Sheva….IDF and MDA forces responding.
10:20 AM Channel 2 TV reports that the IDF successfully executed a targeted killing in Gaza. No reports yet as to the identity of the terrorist.
10:18 AM 5 Explosions heard in Beer Sheva region; 2 rockets intercepted by Iron Dome
10:15 AM Air Raid Sirens in Ofakim and BeerSheva
10:08 AM IDF Radio changes the wounded person’s status to moderate.
10:06 AM An Israeli has been seriously hurt from a rocket shrapnel in the Eshkol region, and is being evacuated by helicopter to hospital. (Channel 2)
6:00 AM – 10:00 AM Dozens and dozens of rockets are fired at Southern Israel. Many of them intercepted by Iron Dome.
The Times of Israel live-blog notes that last night, as opposed to the previous nights of this operation, was marked by rocket fire at the south:
00:27 Rockets fired at Beersheba and Ofakim around midnight land in open areas, no injuries or damage are reported.
Channel 2′s Ohad Hemo says Monday’s anti-Israel demonstrations in the West Bank drew thousands and were described by some participants as the biggest and angriest in 10 years.
01:07 Ma’an reports an Israeli airstrike on the home of Hamas military leader Raed al-Athar in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
It was not clear whether al-Athar was home at the time, or whether he was harmed.
Al-Athar had been considered a possible replacement for Ahmed Jabari, the terror chief assassinated by Israel last week.
01:33 Israeli jets fired on the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, according to Palestinian reports, with casualties being rushed to Shifa Hospital.
A separate airstrike on a government compound, also in Gaza City, is also reported.
Can Hamas explain why there are any casualties in a bank building in the middle of the night? Could it be, perish the thought, that Hamas are using a civilian building for their own nefarious purposes? Unimaginable. (Being ironic here, in case you were worried).
A little bit of disinformation never hurt anyone:
02:41 Al-Arabiya is reporting that a ceasefire agreement could be reached in as little as a few hours.
Reports from the Israeli side, meanwhile, have the government willing to extend and even expand Operation Pillar of Defense if a ceasefire is not reached by Tuesday.
Hypocrisy, thy name is Russia:
Russia accused the United States of blocking a bid by the UN Security Council to condemn the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
“One member of the Security Council, I’m sure you can guess which, indicated… they will not be prepared to go along with any reaction of the Security Council,” Reuters quoted Russia’s UN envoy as saying, making a thinly veiled reference to the United States.
This is too funny. Who is the country blocking real sanctions against Iran in the UN? Who is the country blocking a vote against Syria in the UN? It isn’t a country beginning with R and ending with A, with USSI in the middle? Surely not!
These reservists echo my sentiments precisely:
05:31 Reserve soldiers who rushed to the Gaza border, leaving behind families and work or university studies, tell reporters at one of the Hebrew dailies that they’re itching for action. It would be a shame to have spent four days on edge, preparing for combat, only to be sent home in a ceasefire that may not even last, they say; and if they are sent home, they add, they will be hesitant to report for service the next time they receive emergency call-up orders.
UPDATE: At 11:01 the Times of Israel reports:
Udi Segal, Channel 2′s reliable diplomatic correspondent, says the word from the political top brass is that Hamas’s ceasefire demands are outrageous and untenable, and that this conflict is certainly not over. He foresees ongoing air strikes and a very real possibility of the use of ground forces if there’s no diplomatic breakthrough by tomorrow evening.
Army Radio’s diplomatic reporter Ilil Shahar is making similar assessments: Israel will not agree to a lifting of the “blockade” designed to prevent Hamas rearming, is seeking a wider buffer zone at the Gaza Border, and needs to ensure conditions that would prevent recurrences of Gaza rocket rain on southern and central Israel for years to come. The current reported ceasefire parameters don’t meet those requirements. Netanyahu “is giving time” for the diplomats to work — Ban Ki-moon will be here soon, and Hillary Clinton is on her way — but the IDF is ready for ground operations.
06:52 Of the half-dozen rockets fired at southern Israel in the past hour or so, Iron Dome intercepted two of them.
The reports that follow in the live-blog are a slightly more detailed list of constant rocket and Grad strikes against Israeli towns, particularly Beer Sheva which has taken the brunt of today’s barrage. The rocket fire continues even as I type, although all is quiet here in the Tel Aviv region. So far, tfu tfu tfu.
One of this morning’s missiles hit a bus in Beer Sheva but due to the heroic actions by the bus driver, no one was hurt:
A Hamas terrorist missile hit next to a bus in Be’er Sheva shortly after 8 a.m. Tuesday, but passengers escaped serious injuries except for shock. The bus driver person suffered light shrapnel wounds and was rushed to Soroka Medical center.
He was cited as hero by following instructions and urging passengers to get off the bus when he heard the early warning siren. Thirty seconds later, the missile hit next to the bus, leaving it a heap of shredded metal and broken glass. Another rocket hit a building, causing extensive damage, and one parked vehicle also was damaged.
Ynet has a report on today’s rocket fire with a series of photos of the damage caused, which ought to show those people who dismiss the rocket fire as “insignificant” how dangerous these missiles are:
Meanwhile an axe-wielding assailant has wounded a security guard at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv. The details are most definitely odd:
An axe-wielding attacker lightly wounded a guard at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv Tuesday morning and was arrested. Guards shot at the attacker, who was not wounded, according to initial reports. The attack was not connected to terror.
The victim’s exact condition is not yet known, and police are questioning the assailant. It is not known if the attack is connected to the Gaza hostilities.
The attacker was identified as a 41-year-old Israeli Jew from Bat Yam, a city adjacent to Tel Aviv.
Going back to the live-blog (I admit it’s addictive. Just refresh your browser to get latest updates), here is an interesting anecdote giving a real-life and real-time picture of the crazy reality that is life in the south of Israel:
Army Radio is interviewing a postwoman (a woman who delivers the mail, that is, not some new gender innovation) in Ashdod, trying to focus on the folks who keep the country ticking over even in times of conflict like these. As she talks about doing her best to get the mail delivered while following Home Front Command instructions about taking cover from rocket attacks, a siren sounds — obliterating her voice. The now familiar announcer’s voice breaks in to tell us all that there are “red alerts” in Ashdod and a whole host of locations across the south.
“Razi, there’s an alarm,” she says.
“Take cover,” the show’s anchor Razi Barka’i, urges her.
Not long afterwards, she’s back — telling us that she reckons the incoming rocket has been intercepted by Iron Dome. “Such experts we’re all becoming in areas about which we knew nothing a week ago,” remarks Barka’i. “What did you do, lie down on the sidewalk just now?” he asks her.
“No,” she says, “I went into the building where I had to deliver the mail, and took cover there. Now I’m back on the delivery route.”
Final update for now:
11:14 The Iron Dome anti-missile system shoots down rockets over Ashdod and Be’er Tuvia, and moments later two more rockets over the Hof Ashkelon region near the coast.
The south has been pounded by some 50 rockets so far Tuesday.
And now a short note about the diplomatic implications of Operation Pillar of Cloud. Many of us were very concerned about President Obama’s reelection and the implications for Israel, especially in a war situation such as the one we are in now. But the American Administration has pleasantly surprised us (so far) with much stronger support than I would ever have expected. This support has angered some Middle East countries:
Ties between the US and Egypt and Turkey are being strained by the fighting in Gaza, the Washington Post reports. Officials in both Middle Eastern countries, which have slammed Israel for Operation Pillar of Defense, have expressed displeasure with the Obama administration for backing Israel in the conflict.
The paper notes that the situation is reminiscent of Israel’s 2006 war with Lebanon, during which US President George W. Bush was at first reluctant to back a ceasefire, despite Arab lobbying.
“We don’t practice diplomacy from the podium,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday.
However, US President Barack Obama, currently on a swing through east Asia, has been playing a role behind the scenes, speaking with Israeli prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Monday night. Obama asked Morsi to push Hamas to end the rocket fire on Israel, according to a White House statement.
I just hope Obama and his advisers don’t push Israel too hard into a premature ceasefire. I also hope that this support will continue if the the operation develops into a ground invasion.